The Final Duel

Random photos, culture, philosophy and politics.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

 
U2's "how to dismantle an atomic bomb" has to be one of the best albums ever. Vertigo. the first single is a nice opener but i was a bit disappointed when i first heard it before the albums launch. Needless to say, all fears have been put to rest. Atomic bomb is the definition of early 90s music. Miracle drug is this albums version of "walk on". Original of the species recalls the early u2 classic "One", and "sometimes you cant make it on your own" is simply electric. Sure, u2 doesnt exactly reinvent itself, but this is one band which can stick to its hallmark formula and actually get away with it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

 

 Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 22, 2005

 
The abridged verion of Existentialism is a Humanism, which is a nice intro for those eager to explore existentialism. (Squashed version edited by Glyn Hughes © 2000)

I should like on this occasion to defend existentialism against some charges which have been brought against it. It has been reproached as an invitation to the quietism of despair, a bourgeois contemplative luxury. We are reproached for underlining the mean and sordid, to the neglect of charm, beauty - as the Catholic Mlle. Mercier put it we forget an infant's smiles. This, say the Communists is because we base our doctrine on the subjective Cartesian "I think". By Christians we are reproached for denying the reality and seriousness of human affairs - if everyone can do what he likes he will be incapable of condemning anyone else. It appears that ugliness is being identified with existentialism. Those who can quite keep down a novel by Zola such as la Terre are sickened as soon as they read an existentialist novel. Those who appeal to the sad "wisdom of the people" find ours sadder. Yet what could be more disillusioned than sayings like "Charity begins at home" or "Promote a rogue and he'll sue you for damage", one thing- don't oppose the powers-that-be, don't meddle in matters above your station. They say that man is inclined to evil and must have firm rules to restrain him. What then, is this thing we call existentialism? It has become fashionable to call this painter, or musician or columnist an "existentialist" - a term so loosely applied that it no longer means anything at all. All the same it can easily be defined. Existentialists may be Christians (such as the Catholics Jaspers and Gabriel Marcel) or atheists (like Heidegger and myself). What they have in common is to believe that existence comes before essence, that we must begin from the subjective. What do we mean by that? If one considers an article of manufacture, say a book or a paper-knife, one sees that it has been made to serve a definite purpose. Its essence, the sum of the formulae and qualities which made its definition and production possible, precedes its existence. If we think of God as creator, then the conception of man in the mind of God is comparable to that of the paper knife in the mind of the artisan. Atheist existentialism (of which I am a representative) declares that there is only one being whose existence comes before its essence - that being is man (or, as Heidegger has it, human reality). By this we mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world - and defines himself afterwards. There is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of it. Man primarily exists - man is, before all else, something which propels itself towards a future and is aware that it is doing so. Man is a Project which will only attain essence when he is what he purposes to be. Not, however, what he may wish to be. For what we usually understand by wishing or willing is a conscious decision - but it is more probably a manifestation of a prior and more spontaneous decision. When a man chooses for himself, he chooses for all men, He creates an image of man such as he believes he ought to be. If I decide to marry, even though this decision proceeds simply from my desire, I am thereby committing not only myself but humanity as a whole to the practice of monogamy. In fashioning myself, I fashion man. This may enable us to understand such grandiloquent terms as anguish, abandonment and despair. The existentialist frankly states that man is in anguish - meaning that when a man commits himself to anything he cannot escape from the sense of complete and profound responsibility that he is thereby legislating for the whole of mankind. Many people think they commit no-one but themselves to anything - but in truth one ought to ask what would happen if everyone did as one is doing, to try to escape from such a disturbing thought is a kind of mauvaise foi. This is what Kierkegaard called "the anguish of Abraham". You know the story: an angel commended Abraham to sacrifice his son. But anyone in such a case would wonder if it really was an angel and if they were really Abraham. Who, then, can prove that I am the proper person to impose my conception of man upon mankind? There will be no signs to convince me. It is I who must decide whether the voice is that of an angel. If I regard a certain course of action as good, it is I who choose. When a military leader sends men to their deaths, he may have his orders but at the bottom it is he alone who chooses. When we speak of "abandonment" (a word favorite word of Heidegger) - we mean that God does not exist and that it is necessary to draw the consequences of his absence right to the very end. The existentialist is strongly opposed to the type of secular moralism which attempts to suppress God at the least possible expense. Like the French professors of the 1880's who tried to define a world where definitive rules like 'do not lie' existed in an intelligible heaven without God. The existentialist finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist for there disappears with him all possibility of finding values in a heaven. Dostoievsky wrote "If God did not exist, everything would be permitted"; that is a starting point - man is in consequence forlorn for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. In other words - there is no determinism - man is free, man is freedom. We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. The existentialist thinks that man is responsible for his passion- he cannot find help in some sign vouchsafed upon earth for his orientation: for he will interpret the sign as he chooses. As Ponge has truly written "Man is the future of man" As an example of abandonment, I will refer to the case of a pupil of mine. He lived alone with his mother, his father having gone off as a collaborator and his brother killed in 1940. He had a choice - to go and fight with the Free French to avenge his brother and protect his nation, or to stay and be his mother's only consolation. So he was confronted by two modes of action; one concrete and immediate but directed only towards one single individual; the other addressed to an infinitely greater end but very ambiguous. What would help him choose? Could the Christian doctrine? To whom does he owe the more brotherly love, the patriot or the mother? Which is the more useful, to fight for the whole community or help one particular person to live? Who can give an answer to that one a priori? No one. nor is it given in any ethical scripture. The Kantian ethic says, Never regard another as a means but always as an end. Very well, if I remain with my mother, I shall be regarding her as an end but treating those who fight on my behalf as a means. And the converse is true. I said to him "In the end, it is feeling that counts..." But how does one estimate the strength of feeling? You may say that the youth did at least seek the advice of a professor. But if you seek counsel - from a priest, for example - in choosing which priest you know already, more or less, what they would advise. Whilst I was imprisoned I met a remarkable man, a Jesuit who had joined that order in the following manner. As a child, his father had died leaving him in poverty. At school he was made to feel that he was accepted only for charity's sake and denied the usual pleasures. At the age of eighteen he came to grief in a sentimental affair and then failed his military examinations. He could regard himself as a total failure, but, cleverly, took it as a sign that the religious life, rather than secular success, was the way for him. Who can doubt that his decision as to the meaning of the sign was his and his alone? Abandonment implies that we ourselves decide our being. And with that goes anguish. As for "despair", it merely means that we limit ourselves to a reliance upon that which is within our wills, or within the sum of the probabilities which renders our actions feasible. If I am counting on the visit of a friend, I presuppose that their train will be on time. One does not rely on possibilities beyond those concerned in one's action. Descartes said "Conquer yourself rather than the world" and meant the same - that we should act without hope. Marxists have answered "Your action is limited by your death, but you can rely on others to later take up your action and carry it forward to the revolution". To this I rejoin that I cannot rely upon men who I do not know and I cannot know where the revolution will ultimately lead. Others may come and establish Fascism. Quietism is the attitude of people who say "let others do what I cannot do." The doctrine I present is the opposite; that there is no reality except action, adding "Man is nothing else but what he purposes, he exists only in so far as he realizes himself, he is nothing but the sum of his actions". Many have but one resource to sustain them in their misery, to think that "Circumstances have been against me, I was worthy to be something better. I never found a lover worthy of me, I never had time to write great books. There remains within me a range of abilities, unused but perfectly viable- a worthiness which could never be inferred from the mere history of my actions" But in reality, and for the existentialist, there is no genius other than that expressed in works of art. The genius of Proust is the works of Proust. In life, a man commits himself, draws his own portrait, and there is nothing but that portrait. This may seem comfortless to one who has not made a success of life, but it puts everyone in a position to understand that reality alone is reliable; dreams, expectations and hopes serve to define a man as only as deceptive dreams, abortive hopes and expectations unfulfilled. What people reproach us with is not, after all, our pessimism but the sternness of our optimism. If people condemn our works of fiction it is not because we describe characters that are base, weak and evil but because, unlike Zola whose characters were the product of heredity or environment, you cannot say of ours "That is what we are like, no one can do anything about it". The existentialist portrays a coward as a coward because of his deeds, a coward who makes himself a coward; a hero who makes himself heroic. Ours is not a philosophy of quietism; it defines man by action and without hope other than in action. We are still reproached for confining man within his individual subjectivity, these people badly misunderstand us. Our point of departure is I think, therefore I am, the absolute truth of consciousness. Before there can be any truth, there must be an absolute truth within the reach of everyone; it consists on one's sense of self. This theory alone is compatible with the dignity of man, it is the only one which does not make man into an object. Our aim is to establish the human kingdom as a pattern of values distinct from the material world. Contrary to the philosophy of Descartes, and of Kant, we are discovering in the cogito not just ourselves but all others. Thus we find ourselves in a world of "inter-subjectivity" where man has to decide what he is and what others are. It is impossible to find a human nature, but there is a human universality of condition. Every purpose, even that of a Chinese, an Indian or a Negro, can be understood by a European. There is always some way of understanding an idiot, a child, a primitive or a foreigner if one has sufficient information. In this sense, human universality is not something given, but something being perpetually made. I make this universality in choosing myself. That does not completely refute the charge of subjectivism. People tax us with anarchy as in "it does not matter what you do" "You cannot judge others, for there is no reason to prefer one purpose to another" or "Everything being merely voluntary, you give with one hand and take with the other" Let us say that moral choice is comparable to the construction of a work of art, but it is only a comparison. Do we reproach an artist when he paints a picture for not following the rules established a priori ? Does one ask what is the picture he ought to paint? There is no pre-defined picture, no one can tell what the painting of tomorrow will be like; no one can judge it until it is done. What has this to do with morality? That student who came to me could not appeal to any system for guidance; he was obliged to invent the law for himself. We define man only in relation to his commitments; it is therefore absurd to reproach us for irresponsibility in our choice. We can judge another man, nevertheless, in saying that he deceives himself. Any man who takes refuge behind the excuse of his passions, or by inventing some deterministic doctrine, is a self-deceiver. "And what if I wish to deceive myself?" - there is no reason why you should not, but I declare publicly that you are doing so. We will freedom for freedom's sake. And in thus willing, we discover that it depends entirely on the freedom of others - and that the freedom of others depends on our own. I cannot make liberty my aim unless I make that of all others equally my aim. As Kant declared, freedom is a will both to itself and to the freedom of others. To the objection that "You take with one hand and give with the other", which I take to mean "your values are not serious, since you choose them yourselves" I can only say that I am very sorry, but having excluded God, there must be someone to invent values. We have to take things as they are. I have been reproached for suggesting that existentialism is a form of humanism , when I myself ridiculed a type of humanism in Nauseé. The absurd type of humanism is to glory in "Man the magnificent" ascribing the value of man to the deeds of the most distinguished men. Only a dog or a horse would be in a position to declare such a general judgement. Existentialism will not take man as the end, since man is still to be determined. We have no right to believe that humanity is something to which we could set up a cult. Existentialism is not despair. It declares that even if God did exist, that would make no difference.

Friday, January 21, 2005

 

Been over a year and rob dougan still pops up in my playlist the most often. Guess you could call him a trance artist. head over to www.robdougan.com to listen to the whole album in streaming audio. Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 15, 2005

 

really fucking cool wallpaper from deviantart. I'm sure the artist wouldnt mind if i post it..... Posted by Hello
 

my bro...cameraphone relly blows btw.. Posted by Hello

Friday, January 14, 2005

 

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former: An essay by M-jan

The Big Bang theory first propsed in the year 1927 by an oft-uncredited gentlemen of belgian origin proposes that the universe has been expanding ever since and is hence virtually infinite. The Big Bang theory is well, just a theory, a widely accepted one but they’ve all been wrong before, haven’t they? Rememeber Copernicus? Remember Galileo? Besides it is also thought that our Universe will someday cease expanding and start contracting instead resulting in a sort of “Big Crunch”, if you will. The universe, inexhuastible and boundless to the ordinary layman may not be as endless as it seems. It is with this in mind that I attempt to propose a new paradigm for infiniteness – yes, that’s right, Human Stupidity. It is in this authors humble opinion that once the scientists have exahustivley studied the human genome, they will find that imbecility is in fact biologically ineherent in all human beings.

Let us begin our journey through time, right at the very beginning, with the pedigree of humankind – Adam and Eve, who damned the race of man to an eternity of dishwashing and lawn mowing. Moving out of the realm of mythos and religion, consider the case of the discovery of fire by the early Homo sapiens approximately 200000 years ago. It may surprise you to know that the genus homo actually first appeared about 2.5 million years ago. Do the math. It took us 2.3 million years just to discover fire? Sheesh….

Genocide is a word, which pops up every now and then. How about an insight into its history? Alexander’s massacres of the Persians, the Roman Empire, Genghis khan, the dwindling of Native Americans, the Nazis, Israel-Palestine, Vietnam, Rwanda, Bangladesh Kashmir, just to name a few. And for what?

Contemporary examples of human stupidity are just as numerous. One can scarcely fail to mention the fiasco that was the United States 2004 presidential race. Rock stars and celebrities publicly endorsing their respective candidates, and Advertisement campaigns being made by the very same agencies that promote toothpaste in the off-season. Is this how the average American chooses whom he’s voting for? Scandalous! Its no secret that Bush’s accessible, down-to-earth personality garnered him a significant number of votes. Similarly Kerry’s total lack of charisma also factored in significantly.

Our beloved nation provides a most interesting case study for studying the depths of stupidity. Kant, Descartes, Ludwig Wittgenstein; do any of these names ring a bell? No? In that case, sir (or madam, as the case may be) you are a certifiable moron! These are the most eminent thinkers of this period and to not have heard of their works is tantamount to sacrilege. Our universities and schools mechanically churn out businessmen, engineers and a few doctors to boot. Where are the intellectuals? Why is it that in a city of more than 14 million you have but one library. Lets look at it from another perspective. How do we identify ourselves? As Muslims? Pakistanis? Students? Most of us are Muslims only because we were raised as Muslims, and none of us pause to consider why. What the strengths of our faith are we do not know. To add salt to the already salty wounds, we are fed grotesque conceptions of others faiths. Hindus, we charge we the worship of idols, whereas in truth the idols are only symbolic – a form of iconolatry. Christians are charged with having corrupted scriptures, yet few are aware of the very basic fact that the Bible is in fact a collection of books, inspired by God that never purports authenticity in the same vein as the Quran. Thus, our prime arguments against other faiths lose most of their potency. How do we justify our faith then? A Muslim living abroad may do this with some skill, but we are woefully illiterate when it comes to matters regarding religion. In a sense we are all religious extremists, the only difference is that bourgeoisie and the upper class are too distracted by everyday matters to actually do anything.

Neither are we nationalists in the proper sense. We argue vehemently for the liberation of Kashmir, the “jugular vein” of Pakistan, yet scarcely fail to realize that only genocide has resulted from the struggle thus far. We bicker about politics rather than doing something constructive about the issue. Student protests are not uncommon abroad. Yet we prefer orkutting and cricket to global issues. Enlightened public opinion helps influence government policy and restrain them (to a certain degree, of course) from violating human rights. The Educated class here is, however, too preoccupied with fantasies of wealth and power. Their sole aim in life is to advance in the career their parents have handpicked for them.

Were it that these problems were endemic to Pakistan, one may find some measure of solace. Alas, these issues can be extended well beyond our borders. Surely, human stupidity is not merely infinite but somehow mysteriously interwoven with the very fabric of time itself.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

 
A comment made by a university professor of mine struck me as exemplar of the intellectual bankruptcy of the entire Muslim world (or rather Pakistan in particular. I am however confident that other nations fare no better). Rather out of context, he charges hindus with the same crime i am accusing Muslims in general of, citing their worship of idols as his reason. The moron ought to know that the idols are merely symbolic and as a religious practice, nearly tantamount to the Muslim custom of using prayer mats during Namaz. Don't believe me? Let's see what wikipedia has to say:

"They are symbols of the greater principle, representing and are never presumed to be the concept or entity itself. Thus, Hindu image worship is a form of iconolatry, in which the symbols are venerated as putative sigils of divinity, as opposed to idolatry, a charge often levied (erroneously) at Hindus."

This is quite pathetic in my opinion. University professor or not, a man who is approaching his 50s ought to have done a fair bit of research on religion. How else can he justify what he professes to be? Sadly, quite irrespective of his educational background and his age, the Daily Dawn, Geo TV, and after-dinner discussion constitute the well-spring of the average Pakistani's knowledge.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

 
Yesterday was the crappiest New Year's eve ever. Its not much fun celebrating unless you have a date. Its even less fun when all your friends bail out on you. To make matters even worse the police shut down practically the whole of Karachi. Private parties are all the rage nowadays - a testament to the ostentatious mentality of the Pakistani people. Everyone likes to be confined to their own little circle. Tolerance for diversity is practically non-existent. Funny thing is that at the core Pakistanis are all alike in the following respects:-

(1) no one has even heard of Hume, Kant or Niezstche, regardless of his background so no matter what they profess to be they are irrational and blindly devout to their religion. To not know of the fundamentals of philosphy is not to have pondered on the basic facts of life, and despite my existentialist leanings such a person in my opinion is in fact the worse kind of person. When in a city of over 14 million people, you have only one library (and a lousy one to boot), there's obviously something wrong
(2) They have a limited range of activities and an overblown tendency to gossip and stalk people on MSN Messenger
(3) They procrastinate endlessly and despise hard work
(4) They are always critical of others regardless of themselves
(5) They like cricket and/or soccer
(6) They all have orkut accounts
(7) They are materialistic, preferring to judge others by the jobs they hold rather than anything else
(8) They have low self-esteem, and consequently are excessively conscious of their looks. Foreigners will be surprised to learn that the metrosexual has in fact existed for decades over here.

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